It is with much anticipation and great excitement that we introduce our Authors of the Month for April – David Solomon with John Anthony West – and their brand new book, The Dead Saints Chronicles: A Zen Journey Through the Christian Afterlife.
On Thursday, June 13, 2013, as I neared completing two years of intensive NDE (Near-Death Experience) research, I was diagnosed with stage IV glioma (GBM), a very rare, aggressive form of terminal brain cancer with a median survival rate of 15-18 months, and no recorded instances of permanent remission. The catastrophic news halted midstream, the completion of Akio Botanical Gardens, a five-acre Japanese landscaping project that surrounded our home in Washington State.
Though tragic, the scientist in me was able to recognize and even appreciate it as an opportunity to explore, in a unique fashion, the unknown territory called The Afterlife. Though intensive and wide-ranging, up to this point my NDE studies were without focus. I thought there might be a book in it (my NDE “hobby” had already assembled a vast trove of disorganized but potentially valuable near-death material)
But without the life-shattering jolt of that cancer diagnosis it probably would never have happened. The “hobby” became a mission.
If my life had an earlier expiration date than I had ever imagined, I had better get to work! After months of planning (I’m a habitual and instinctive planner), The Dead Saints Chronicles burgeoned into a Trilogy… three separate but complementary explorations of a single grand theme. Vol. I, this one just published, A Zen Journey Through the Christian Afterlife, Vol. III, The Armageddon Stones would incorporate my many years of prior research into ancient catastrophe accounts as they applied to religious texts globally. Vol. II Training Wires of the Soul would be autobiographical. It’s been a long, eventful, winding and well- traveled path: from penniless backwoods country boy, to wannabe astronaut, to charismatic Christian mystic’s apprentice, to Bonsai and Tai Chi teacher, to millionaire businessman, to co- Pastor of his Church, to full-time NDE scholar/researcher/author…
Between the apparently inescapable prognosis and my own instinct, I knew the writing project would be a race to the finish, probably right to my final seconds. Yet, despite brain fog and long bouts of radiation/chemo fatigue the pieces fell miraculously into place on an almost daily basis. It was as though it was being orchestrated from above—by God and His angels, as well as deceased friends and teachers already on the “other side.”
There were periods of despair, brought on by physical exhaustion, when I wanted to abandon the Chronicles and focus only on my family and my bucket list. I was dying! But then, the Hand of God would reach down, slap me upside the head with some new inspiration. I’d get a phone call from some friend I hadn’t heard from in thirty years. He’d relate a dream, a new thought, a reference I should follow up on or perhaps just a sunrise I should experience. So the Chronicles became my Afterlife training ground, our divine “boot camp.” My book would be the culmination of forty years of personal experiences, Eastern and Western spiritual practice, scientific/scholarly research into a variety of related fields, ongoing journal work and dream analysis. The Dead Saints Chronicles would set out to validate the vivid descriptions of the mysterious Afterlife realm recorded by the great mystics throughout human history. My prognosis assured my own entry into that realm in the not- so-distant future, lending it an immediacy and a unique perspective; a book about the Afterlife unlike anything written to date.
Why “Dead Saints”?
That was one of those morning mini-epiphanies. I was driving to the local gas station for my usual morning coffee when suddenly the words Dead Saints appeared in a vision. And in that instant, I knew those two words would be incorporated into my title and why. Familiar as I was with the mystical experiences recorded throughout history by Christian saints and by spiritual masters (by whatever name) of other religions and traditions, I realized those thousands of contemporary NDEs I’d been researching were analogous if not identical. But with several major differences.
Christian saints (for the most part) were “Saints” because they had had an encounter with God, Christ and with Unconditional Love. That experience transformed their lives and freed them from the fear of death.
That encounter with the Divine and subsequent freedom from a fear of death is common to the revered mystics of all the traditions. It is also the one universal commonality shared by all who have gone through an NDE; it is why I call them Dead Saints.
One common difference between the holy men and women of history and the Dead Saints is that the mystical experience is usually, though not always, the culmination, anyway a consequence, of a life of devotion and ascetic/contemplative disciplines. Generally, (there are a few exceptions) those historical saints did not have to die physically in order to have their transformational experiences. By contrast, the NDE today most often happens to ordinary people, many with no religious practice or training at all, or even a belief in a higher realm or power.
But neither the NDE or a life of formal devotion is a necessary prerequisite for a transformational experience. In other words, it is not essential to starve in the desert for years on end, or actually die and be resuscitated. There are levels and degrees. Even within the range of the full-blown NDE there are greater and lesser revelations. In fact, most of us have had mystical experiences at some level (especially in childhood) but we learn to keep them to ourselves for fear of appearing “weird” to our peers and to our elders and so we forget them, or we have had them beaten out of us by the brainwashing process called “education.” However, understood for what they are or were, all are valuable lessons in themselves; tools that we can use to further our inner work. We just don’t call them “mystical.” The NDE might be called the summa cum laude of the lot.
A third difference between the visionaries of the past and today’s Dead Saints is more apparent than real. “How is it,” scoffs the skeptic, “that this so-called mystical experience happened so very infrequently in the past, and then only to a select few, while today every Tom, Dick and Harriet seems to have an NDE on every street corner? And writes a book about it. They must be in it for the money.”
The reality is that (figuring mentally and very roughly) only one NDE gets reported for every six million deaths globally, and over the course of the forty years since Raymond Moody published his ground breaking Life After Life (13 million copies sold) some six thousand NDE accounts have been logged.) Statistically, those are odds customarily associated with the lottery. Nevertheless, 6000 NDE’s is not a negligible number … and they are easily accounted for.
Tremendous advances in crisis medicine have hugely improved resuscitation techniques; in other words, many people who, just twenty years ago, would not have been brought back to life; fifty years ago probably none would have. Today the universal availability of the internet makes it possible to broadcast an NDE account to the world at large at the click of a button and so the phenomenon goes viral. Today, a large and swiftly growing acceptance of the NDE as a genuine, if brief, sojourn in a higher spiritual realm, (rather than some sort of inexplicable –but “rational”—wholly imaginary brain glitch allowing the Paradigm Police to keep their sick, secular paradigm in place) gains traction across a spectrum of alternative disciplines.
It’s a kind of reverse Emperor’s New Clothes, in which only the weavers actually believe they are producing cloth. The populace, however, while not quite seeing the weavers for self-deluded charlatans they are, is not buying their product, either.
* * *
The Chronicles ranges far and wide, touching upon virtually every aspect of life and death … and life after death. Reprinting its actual table of contents will provide a better idea of the book as a whole than any abbreviated written description of its rich and varied contents.
Foreword: Dannion Brinkley
Part I: Nebari
Chapter 1: Premonitions
Chapter 2: The Race, the Research, & the Dead Saints Epiphany
Chapter 3: Death Is a Lie Humans Tell Themselves
Chapter 4: Earth University
Chapter 5: Rice Paper Teachers
Chapter 6: Dreams: Night School
Chapter 7: The Apprentice Gardener
Chapter 8: The Spiritual Journal
Chapter 9: Life Review
Chapter 10: The Judgment
Chapter 11: We Die in Character
Part II: Afterlife Bonsai
Chapter 12: Is Our Mission Finished?
Chapter 13: Death Step by Step
Chapter 14: Transformations
Chapter 15: You Do Not Die Alone
Chapter 16: The Body of Light
Chapter 17: Heaven–The Kingdom of Light
Chapter 18: Ghosts, Apparitions, & Earthbound Spirits
Chapter 19: Tragedy, Evil & Hell
Part III: Bonsai Secrets
Chapter 20: The Governing Laws of Religion Are Not Absolute
Chapter 21: Pre-Existence
Chapter 22: An Uncomfortable Possibility
Chapter 23: Jesus, Planetary Headmaster
Chapter 24: The 13 th Path
Afterword: by John Anthony West
* * *
As Victor Hugo famously said, “There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.”
What Victor Hugo did not say, and probably did not think of, is, “The second strongest thing in the world is an idea whose time has not yet gone.” And since, as an invariable rule, all the actual armies in the world, (be they military, religious, scientific, philosophical, economic, even artistic), are sworn to the defense of the idea whose time has not yet gone, there is always and invariably a battle.
The NDE is a big Idea, whose time is on the cusp of coming. The Dead Saints Chronicles will surely be in the cross-hairs of the Paradigm Police. And the more successful it becomes, the fiercer will be the fire. (as they say in the Airforce, “the flak is always heaviest when you’re right over the target.”) Our present day secular science does not accept personal experience as evidence (for anything!) But who gave them the divine right to make the rules? Those thousands of moving, carefully studied, analyzed and mutually supportive personal accounts are not about to vanish at a click of skeptic’s “delete” button. They speak for themselves and increasing numbers of people are ready to listen.
They know enough instinctively (if not intellectually) to withstand and disregard Paradigm Police propaganda: the wise man does not buy a cookbook written by someone who has never fried an egg.